Each year, the Centre provides volunteering opportunities through its Community Service Learning (CSL) program in the National Capital Region. Students opting for a CSL placement have the opportunity to test their skills, develop their abilities and make the link between theory and practice, all while contributing to their community. These volunteer hours are recorded in their Co-Curricular Record (CCR).
What volunteering has given one student
Giving back to the University community in a meaningful way was the most important factor motivating Robert Dwight Matson to start volunteering. The fourth year Faculty of Science (biochemistry) student had heard of the Foot Patrol in first year during Welcome Week. He decided to join, and has been regularly volunteering with the service. He has completed over 300 hours with the Foot Patrol, and says he’s “gained plenty” from it. He also discovered that the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement could help him get his volunteering hours recognized through the Co-curricular Record, which is issued by the Centre.
In second year, he got involved with the Science Students Association and helped organize Welcome Week for new students. “I had such an amazing time in my first week of university,” he says, “that I wanted to aid the first year students in feeling the same experience.” This has been Robert’s most memorable volunteering experience so far. It is all about sharing happy moments with others. “Despite the weather, the first-year students all seemed to enjoy the week, and I can say that I absolutely loved the experience,” he says.
In fall 2017, Robert learned about the Community Service Learning (CSL) program in his Advanced Techniques in Biosciences course. Through it, he completed a placement with the University of Ottawa’s Office of Risk Management. “The supervisor was great, and it was really nice to volunteer in something that is close to the field that I am studying in,” he says.
For Robert, “volunteering is a very rewarding experience.” It helps you learn more about University of Ottawa services, opportunities and resources. It is also an opportunity to meet people from various programs and improve your communication skills. And it goes without saying that gaining experience with community activities and helping building a better society definitely has a positive effect on one’s studies. “Although you may not at first see a benefit to volunteering in your studies, sometimes the benefits come out of nowhere,” he says.
Animal Studies: An exploration of our ethical responsibilities toward animals
A new course in Animal Studies was offered for the first time at the University of Ottawa this fall. The course, which was co-taught by Professor Anne Vallely (Department of Classics and Religious Studies) and Professor Sonia Sikka (Department of Philosophy), introduces students to the wide range of historical and contemporary ways in which humans relate to other living beings, including an exploration of our ethical responsibilities toward animals.
Professor Vallely believes that the creation of this course marks an important development for the University, and she hopes it will lead to a minor in Animal Studies. However, she is also concerned that as the study of animal-related issues moves away from the margins of academic interest to become more mainstream, the field will become over-theorized, depoliticized and disconnected from real animals.
With this concern in mind, she contacted the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement to find ways for her students to engage in firsthand experiential learning by working on practical, animal-related issues. For example, some of her students worked on a project to protect Ottawa’s population of endangered little brown bats, while others worked with the uOttawa Office of Campus Sustainability in researching how to create a bird-friendly campus. “The students who are pursuing CSL placements are benefitting others – human and nonhuman alike – and gaining work-related skills in the process.” Professor Vallely added that “CSL has been an invaluable resource for our class, enabling students to bridge theory and practice in ways that would be impossible in a traditional class setting alone.”
Does your organization, service or Faculty work on an animal-related project or initiative that could benefit from the support of students? Contact the Centre and we will gladly discuss your potential needs and priorities with respect to an animal-related CSL component, or any other CSL course component of interest to the general student population.
CSL – Placement with Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN)
My name is Emilia Macera Deschênes and I study International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa. I am currently undertaking a CO-OP placement at the International Development and Research Centre and will be starting fourth-year next term. I chose this field of study largely because of my interest in world cultures and my experience in community work. Given that I am of Peruvian and Canadian descent, I have always been interested in North-South relations and have often compared lifestyles, policies and systems in both countries.
I heard about Community Service Learning (CSL) as a component in a course on international development finance taught by Professor Philippe Régnier. The Michael Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement partnered with CUSO to offer us placements as international finance researchers for a Nicaraguan NGO called Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN). This organization is a network of Nicaraguan women entrepreneurs that aims to assist its members in becoming economically self-sufficient. My team conducted research on diversifying funding sources to support the activities of this network. We wrote a report incorporating the theoretical aspects found in the course and in Canadian development-assistance policies. We also created a database on potential funding sources from the public and private sectors. We then presented our research findings, which were warmly appreciated by the CUSO team.
What I found exceptional about this placement was the possibility of working remotely without having to organize or pay for all the travel and other expenses associated with an international work term. Overall, this placement enriched my academic experience: it deepening my knowledge of the financing of international development by putting theory into practice. I find that knowledge is important but practical know-how is also beneficial, especially for the job market. Above all, this placement helped me develop my sense of initiative and leadership while helping me hone my communication skills. I also learned how to manage several expectations, including those of my team, the course and the partners, by communicating openly with all those involved in the project. As for my career prospects, this placement helped me expand my network, gain a professional reference, and receive credits while boosting my CV. Our team even received a certificate of appreciation from CUSO for conducting this research!
I would like to thank Professor Philippe Régnier for incorporating this CSL component into his course syllabus. I strongly encourage other professors to contact the MJCGCE for more information on the opportunities available to students. The effort invested in creating these partnerships and services pays significant dividends in terms of our academic and career development. I also encourage all students to get involved outside the classroom and to learn about the resources at their disposal. Don`t hesitate to talk to your professors about CSL so that together, you can create new opportunities within your programs!